Myths vs. Reality Slot Payback

Is Slot Machine Payback Lower When Using Free Play?

The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas bounceback offer
Written by Joshua

I’ve had multiple slot players tell me they believe that slot machine payback is impacted depending on whether you’re using free play or actual cash.

STATUS: It’s as good as cash. And once bet once through, is cash.

Slot machines are able to track a lot of things. They can distinguish between cash and free play. For instance, while some markets like Las Vegas “reimburse” you for each spin as you take them, other markets, including many on the East Coast, let you load a bucket of free play into the machine at first, and you have to bet it once through before it’s cash that can be redeemed.

The slot machine will know how much is left, because if you cash out before you’re done, the remaining balance will remain as slot play unless you cash out again, which will give you a special slot play TITO to use elsewhere.

So that means the slot has the technical ability to discern between slot play and actual cash. So that means they can make the payback differ, right?

Not if the slot machines aren’t programmed to allow for this, and they aren’t. I’ve covered slot payback here pretty extensively, but to review, slots are designed with about a half dozen choices to select from. The choices are the expected long term average for the machine, without options for free play vs. cash, for instance.

Free play is such a small percentage of the overall coin-in a casino sees that manipulating that is about as helpful as changing payback vs. time of day, which also doesn’t happen. Free play is a marketing expense that traditionally does its job well – to drive players back in to spend more money.

As such, you can be assured that free play will have the same odds of winning you or losing you money on a given machine as if you put a $20 bill in.

About the author


My name is Joshua, and I’m a slot enthusiast who works in tech as a marketer by day, and dabbles in casinos periodically during off-times. Know Your Slots will reflect my interests in understanding the various ways you can play slots, travel, casino promotions and how you can get the most out of your casino visits.

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